If Universal Basic Income is introduced -per common thinking- people will slack for the rest of their lives.
And Yes, some people will definitely do that, it will be their choice, and we should consider the implications.
There are people however who will never be able do anything of themselves because they are held back by the everyday needs of life: it’s hard to make something big, while having to concern oneself with bringing food to the family’s table, as Maslow taught us with his beautifully concise pyramid.
For those not familiar, this is Maslow’s pyramids, that we already bumped into here.
We already discussed why UBI is both affordable and necessary, so let’s dive head first into clarify one thing… when I say that some people will definitely use their UBI for slacking, I am talking about a relatively small fraction of our society: those people who for whatever reason can find no motivation to contribute to society any more than what’s strictly necessary for satisfying their basic needs.
Even then… the introduction of UBI is effectively a way to say “there: society takes care of you, don’t worry” that potentially would add motivation to at least some of those who today are disenfranchised or alienated.
A funny little fact I like to mention: there are a few countries on earth today offering a cost of living lower than $5000 per year. I do see many western people saving to buy their next car or gadget, not so many are saving to live the rest of their life in one of those countries doing nothing.
In fact, if you ever had the opportunity to ask anyone who had a long enough sabbatical, they will almost invariably tell you that eventually they felt the urge to go back to their previous life, and use their time and skills in a useful or productive way.
If we wanted to converge the real world example of people who had a sabbatical, with the famous theory of Maslow, we could say that we are simply not “designed” to unidirectionally take from the world, but rather to yearn for self realization.
There is one more very important aspect to consider: our culture constantly promotes a consumerist lifestyle: exhibiting our status through clothing, goods, the people we associate with, and our general lifestyle is second nature in our world, and it’s not going to change overnight, which is one more reason why most people would remain within the productive cycle even after the introduction of UBI.
And this is where democracy takes an important part to this topic.
Consumerism is democracy in action: we all heard that when we buy, we vote, what does that mean in detail?
If we buy a new mobile phone every year, we are stimulating R&D in IT, telecommunication and technology in general; if we buy it made in China, we are stimulating globalisation, if from a national brand, we are growing our own economy. If we buy thousands of dollars of clothes, we are stimulating the industry to produce our garments in a cheaper and more efficient fashion (so as to maximise profits for the sellers), if we buy ethical clothes, we are stimulating R&D for producing better clothes that are aligned with our ethical stance. If we buy organic vs gmo food we also are voting one way or another, and so on.
As consistently forecasted for many years, automation will wipe out 30% of our jobs by 2030. This would effectively reduce to 0 the purchasing power of 30% of the population, therefore wiping their consumeristic right to vote.
UBI is the only way we can make sure that our capitalism remains democratic and that everyone gets to vote so that our productivity remains relevant to the whole of our society: without this simple mechanism, we have had in past a very hard time to coordinate the efforts of society… USSR’s communism being maybe the most famous and miserable failure of all in that respect.
So, in closure, this is -unequivocally- an ode to UBI, however the question remains: what can be done to help people not loosing their their purpose in life while transitioning for the first time in human history to a model where subsistence becomes a birth right? I doubt there is a single answer, but I may try to answer that in the future!